This eerily prescient book about a pandemic that shuts down London has a fascinating back story.
Peter May wrote the novel in 2005, but it was rejected by publishers as being too unrealistic.
So Mr. May put it in his Dropbox and moved on to other projects. It was only in the spring of 2020, when much of the world was in lockdown due to Covid-19, and a follower on Twitter suggested he should wrote a lockdown novel, that Mr. May remembered his 15 year-old manuscript.
“I thought about it for a minute before I realised that I’ve kind of already done it,” he recalls. “I told my publisher about it and my editor just about fell out of his chair. He read the entire book overnight and the next morning he said, ‘This is brilliant. We need to publish this now.’”
This is a powerful book, scary, frightening, and – terrifyingly – it is 100% believable.
I initially wondered whether reading a lockdown novel in these grim Coronavirus times was wise.
Was it counter-intuitive?
Shouldn’t I stick to more cheerful reading matter?
But – I posit – this book, despite its dark theme and its terrifying moments, is exactly what we should all read. If nothing else, perhaps it’ll give food for thought to all the glib Covidiots wandering around maskless and denying the very existence of the pandemic as an elaborate hoax.
For what we see in “Lockdown” is a society turning in on itself.
London’s Isle of Dogs – the only place in the city that is free from the flu epidemic – barricades itself off from the rest of the city.
Looting is rampant and the descriptions of the wreckage of London streets are chilling.
People are deeply suspicious of each other, worried that they will catch the flu from any form of human contact:
“Can I come up, sir? he repeated.
Have you had the flu?
No, sir. But I am protected,” McNeil lied.
Put a mask on, if you have one. If you haven’t, I’ll give you one. And please wear gloves. I don’t want you touching anything in my studio.
Those privileged few who can afford the anti-virus drug FluKill have it; others must take their chance:
“He’d heard that the flu had gone through the prisons like wildfire. Nature’s own form of capital punishment. Indiscriminate, all possibility of appeal denied. Nothing was moving out there. It was perfectly still. No sound. No cats, no barking dog. No traffic. He could almost have believed he was the last man alive. It felt like he was.”
There is great cynicism about the government’s handling of the flu pandemic and the statistics they provide:
“The figures the government puts out,” she said. “Crap! They’re much worse.“
How much worse?
Well, the population of Greater London’s what, about 7 million? Just do the math. A quarter of the population will get it. That’s about 1.7 million. Around three-quarters of them will die. That’s just over 1.3 million. Dead. No way back. Gone forever.“
Detective Inspector Jack MacNeil, battling his own personal demons, is put in charge of an investigation into the discovery of a bag of bones on a site destined to become a pandemic hospital.
From this chilling start, Jack must race against time as he tries to identify the murder victim – a young child – while his search leads him ever deeper into a web of evil and suspicion. And sadness.
A compelling read, on so many levels.